Best React.js Books For Teaching Yourself From Scratch

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Facebook created one of the most beloved frontend frameworks on the web. It seems like everyone and their grandma is picking up React and cherishing every minute of it.

There are dozens of tutorials online but many of them jump around to different subjects. How does someone get started from the very beginning learning React from the ground-up?

I’ve curated this post with the 10 best React books out there for beginners and experts alike. There are many more beginner books than advanced books. However the content out there is phenomenal if you know where to look. Check out the list below and see if any particular titles catch your eye.

Best Book For Beginners

If you’re completely new to React and have no idea where to start I’d highly recommend React: Up & Running. It’s published by O’Reilly and it’s definitely one of their best intro books.

Since React moves fast it gets updated frequently, so this book may not be 100% on top of the latest changes. However the core foundation of React remains solid so you can trust that this information is applicable to all future versions of the framework.


React: Up & Running: Building Web Applications

This is one of the best books for an absolute beginner who just wants to focus on React for web development. React: Up & Running was written by Stoyan Stefanov, a full time engineer at Facebook. This is someone who works closely with React and has the experience to back up his writing.

The best thing about this book is the workflow. It doesn’t assume that you’re a master of Node, Gulp/Grunt, or even ES6 for development.

You start with React.js and move through it with a simple IDE and plain old JavaScript. The author slowly adds more tools as needed, but the foundational knowledge focuses solely on React.

You should already have JavaScript experience but you don’t need much more than this. Even if you have no idea what React is or how it works you can pick up this book and get moving quickly.


React.js Essentials

Some developers just want to move through the basics and learn as quickly as possible. This seems to be the goal of React.js Essentials which you can easily finish in 2-4 days.

It’s only 194 pages and the author goes into brief detail for React components. This book is an “essentials” book for a reason.

The later chapters get into Jest and Flux and other add-ons but very few chapters deal with real-world applicable tutorials. You’ll be learning React in bite-size chunks and you should work your way through quickly even with no background knowledge.

Don’t get me wrong, this book does have tutorials. But I think you can find more detailed examples online so you certainly won’t get everything with this title.

The writing style is a great intro for beginners so if you’ve been struggling with React or just have poor JS knowledge consider picking up a copy of React Essentials.


Getting Started with React

Here’s a much newer title aimed at developers who want to learn React.js with applications at the forefront. Everything you’ll learn in Getting Started with React is attainable, easy to follow, and powerful if you actually do the work.

The book follows a step-by-step process where you’ll learn how to build custom applications with React’s components and some APIs, notably the Facebook API.

Early chapters start by introducing the basic anatomy of a React.js application along with the ideas behind JSX. You’ll learn about properties, events, and handling form inputs with React. This is a powerful beginner’s guide and it focuses more on execution rather than detailed specifics.


ReactJS by Example

Yet another new publication coming from Packt that focuses heavily on the React.js framework. The goal of this book is to teach you how to write proper code that can be reused and portioned out across multiple web applications.

ReactJS by Example explains the life cycle of components and how you should properly be structuring your React pages. There is no easy way around this subject and I think it’s better to learn the proper way first.

You’ll learn about common event handlers and catching errors through React’s library. This also includes passing data to a controller for parsing. And the authors even include sections on ES2015/ES6 which is clearly the future of JavaScript development.

This is another book that can work well for beginners if they’re willing to follow by example. However it’s not the easiest as far as writing style, so if you’ll get hung up on the technicals I’d recommend an easier book like React: Up & Running.


SurviveJS – Webpack and React

Practical advice and execution meet in this powerful guide to Webpack and React.js. The author Juho Vepsäläinen explains that this book is not just a newbie’s guide to React. It aims to teach the entire workflow including ES6, Webpack, Node, Flux, and other related tools.

SurviveJS Webpack and React was tested for over a year before it was finally released in its current version. Developers gave many critiques to improve the code samples and tutorials aimed at teaching readers how to build an inventory system with Webpack + ReactJS.

You’ll learn how to deal with typing in React along with different styles for your React components. These all blend together with a Webpack workflow and you’ll learn how to scale a web project from start to finish using the most modern webdev tools available.

I would not recommend this book to any beginner just getting started. It will help you learn many finer points of React, but it’s not meant to hold your hand throughout the process.

I’d recommend this to developers who know the fundamentals and want to put React to use in a real-world scenario.


Pro React

There’s no limit to what can be accomplished with React. But many developers have a limit on their knowledge of what can be done. Pro React written by Cassio de Sousa Antonio teaches you how to scale a React.js workflow for any size application.

Flux/Redux are used heavily along with some 3rd party React resources off GitHub. The goal is to help less experienced web developers build their workflow in the right way.

Unfortunately the code snippets are not explained in the best possible manner, so you really need to know React before you pick up this title.

However it will teach you how to structure React applications and how to think about your structure before launching a project online.


Learning React Native: Building Native Mobile Apps with JavaScript

If you’re already familiar with the React framework and want to take it further then you might consider native mobile apps. Many developers choose a native programming language(Swift/Java) but it’s also possible to build mobile apps with JavaScript.

Learning React Native: Building Native Mobile Apps with JavaScript teaches you the fundamentals behind React Native. It covers the purpose of React Native and how this compares to a truly native application.

You’ll learn about creating new projects, styling UI components, and handling data transfers from APIs or even databases.

This book is a powerful introduction to React Native but you will need knowledge of React before even opening the first chapter.


Mastering React

This book promises a lot and for the most part I think it delivers. Since the framework is constantly changing I can’t guarantee that you’ll be an expert once you complete this book.

But I do think Mastering React is the best book you can get to fill in potential gaps in your React knowledge. The writing style is clear and guides you through the process of crafting very difficult applications from scratch.

You’ll learn how to build custom React components and how to include 3rd party libraries to scale your React webapps to larger audiences.

If you really want to master React then you’ll need to put in the effort. This means building stuff on your own time but also researching and learning detailed concepts from books like this.


ReactJS Blueprints

Here’s a much more recent React.js book published by Sven Robbestad. This covers the advanced side of React development focusing on workflows & design patterns.

ReactJS Blueprints teaches intermediate-to-advanced React developers how to build optimal development environments. You’ll learn how to customize components, connect to APIs, and structure your own applications using the latest tools and resources including Git version control.

The author gets into universal programming for JS on the frontend+backend of the server. There’s a lot going on in this book and most of it is quite advanced.

If you’re a React developer who wants more structure to your workflow then I’d recommend getting a copy of ReactJS Blueprints. But keep in mind this is only a proposed workflow and you’re always free to customize it to suit your needs.


ReactJS Cookbook

Lastly we come to the most recent book in this whole list. I love cookbooks when they’re done right and the ReactJS Cookbook by Johannes Stein is a great example of this.

It spans 300 pages filled with dozens of custom recipes for React.js components, pitfalls, and webapp features. The author delves into rather advanced topics like asynchronous development and pushes you in all directions.

Everything in this book is completely modular so you’ll be able to reuse components in multiple projects. I think DRY coding is the best way to build and it seems Johannes Stein agrees.

Before this book I never found a decent recipe cookbook for React. But this easily takes the cake and I would highly recommend the ReactJS Cookbook to any developer building their own React applications who want to go further with professional snippets & design patterns.

With such a fast-paced environment it’s tough to stay on top of React’s growth. This is quite possibly the most popular frontend JS framework on the web and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing.

This can be intimidating and stressful if you haven’t gotten started. But it can also be enlivening if you’re about to dive into the wonderful world of React.

I think absolute beginners should start with React: Up & Running followed by ReactJS by Example. Both of these books cover foundational knowledge in great detail and teach you through a combination of theory and practical tutorials.

Once you’re past the beginner’s phase you can always browse online for videos, written tutorials, and even more advanced books like some of the titles in this post.

And if you’re looking for a ReactJS solutions book I’d highly recommend the ReactJS Cookbook. It’s dense and up-to-date so it can be a huge asset so long as you’re able to keep up with the material.

Author: Alex Turner

Alex is a fullstack developer with years of experience working in digital agencies and as a freelancer. He writes about educational resources and tools for programmers building the future of the web.